Best Practices - June 2013
By Sonya Jennings
DFS Flooring is a leading commercial flooring contractor with five office and warehouse locations in southern California and one in Las Vegas. The company seeks to provide commercial flooring expertise and differentiates itself by avoiding the practices used by flooring brokers, who take commercial flooring orders then farm them out to various installer shops. The keys to making this distinction are first and foremost expertise and experience. In addition, DFS eliminates the need for a middleman, and the company offers several warehouse locations, a full installation staff, lift labor and maintenance.
DFS, a Starnet member, acquires new business by creating lasting relationships with four different types of targets: end users, general contractors, mills, and architects and designers. According to Richard Friedman, president of DFS, “We will take business any way we can get it, but our goal on every job is to create a relationship with the end user that will last over time. We want every organization that we work with to see us as their flooring expert on all maintenance and future jobs.” Friedman sees the end user as the most important influencer of what product is finally installed, because they are ultimately paying the bill and have to actually use the facility.
While many commercial flooring contractors focus mostly on gaining business from general contractors, DFS targets the different types of influencers. The sales staff at DFS is comfortable going after business in all areas of opportunity for commercial flooring projects. They are trained to generate business with each of these four targets:
1. End user/construction manager: The ultimate goal of every job is to create a lasting business relationship with the end user—or the construction manager representing an end user. On any given job, DFS seeks to provide maintenance and expertise for future projects.
2. General contractors: DFS builds relationships with general contractors by being a trusted and reliable resource for flooring.
3. Mills: When selling direct to a client, the mill salesperson knows he cannot provide all of the flooring products if the need goes beyond carpet. If his client wants stone, hardwood, etc., the mill can request help procuring these items for a client. Mills will call on DFS to help present a client with a full range of products. Once again, this gives DFS the opportunity to gain the trust of an end user.
4. Architect/designer: Architects and designers are experts at creating a vision for their clients, and DFS employees are flooring experts. When designers are putting together projects for clients, they can call on DFS to provide expertise in product choice and installation. Once that trust is built, the architect or designer will call DFS concerning future projects because they know that DFS understands flooring better than anyone else.
Participating in organization like IFMA (International Facility Managers Association), IIDA (International Interior Designers Association), and BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association) allows DFS to build relationships with current and prospective clients. Client lunches and special events like Lakers games are also an important part of building relationships with current and potential clients.
Some commercial flooring contractors are currently losing business to the mills, as some mills are selling directly to the end user. According to Friedman, “Mills don’t really want to sell direct. The first problem on a job then becomes their problem, and this is not where they want to spend their time and energy. They are selling direct because we as commercial contractors have not done a good enough job of explaining our value to the end user.” Friedman goes on to explain that the value commercial contractors need to communicate to end users is the expertise in choosing the right flooring product, which may or may not be a carpet product, handling and correcting installation issues as they may arise, and providing continuing maintenance with the highest standards of care to help the product last as long as possible. The mills cannot provide these services, nor do they want to be in that business. DFS is ready and willing to provide installation services for a mill that is selling directly to the end user, and the company relishes the opportunity. Friedman adds, “I’ll take any avenue to get in front of a customer. DFS will provide top notch installation, and we will work to create a relationship with the customer while we have the opportunity.”
One type of business that DFS rarely pursues is bid work, particularly government “green sheet” work. Bid work tends to be centered on price, and DFS focuses more on service. According to Friedman, “Bid work attracts a Walmart mentality of price being the most important factor. We are more comparable to a Neiman Marcus, where we offer the best service, labor and maintenance.” DFS has several warehouse locations, its own labor force, lift labor and a maintenance staff. There is an overhead to run that type of full service operation, so always offering the lowest price is not the goal of the company. The company will only compete in a bid situation when the end user is a target customer. For instance, if the bid involves Microsoft, DFS will participate only because it is an opportunity to get in front of Microsoft and begin a business relationship.
Offering a premiere maintenance program is another way DFS builds a trusting relationship with clients. There are two ways the company gains maintenance business—through contracts offered after a DFS installation or by “tag work,” when a company calls in for maintenance on existing floors. Once a floor is installed, a customized maintenance contract is presented to every client. The program is designed specifically for that organization and includes cleaning, fixing seams, replacing carpet tiles, and more. DFS maintenance contracts also tailor the program to the foot traffic use of the facility. For instance, a company may need cleaning once a month for the high traffic areas, quarterly for medium traffic areas, and one time per year for individual offices.
The goal is to keep the program consistent with the needs of the organization and to extend the life and beauty of the flooring products. DFS is the only maintenance company in southern California to use DuPont’s Resistech, the preferred chemical for cleaning Invista carpet fiber.
According to Friedman, “Janitors are our biggest maintenance competitors. We have to explain to the end user how typical cleaning methods used by janitors are comparable to throwing an Armani suit in the washing machine.”
Current trends in southern California’s commercial market are a shift from broadloom to carpet tile. Seventy percent of the carpet that DFS installs is now carpet tile. Overall sales are approximately 50% carpet products and 50% hard surface. Carpet is losing marketshare to hard surface, particularly with the price coming down on wood and the new resilient products that look so much like wood and stone. Concrete is also gaining popularity in California.
Since its beginning in 1959 as Paul Singer Floor Coverings, a residential and commercial flooring company, DFS has changed ownership a few times. One of its two current owners, Richard Friedman, has been with the company from the early days—he was CFO at Paul Singer Floor Coverings. Greg Keyes and Friedman bought the company from DuPont/Koch Industries in 2005. Keyes brings sales expertise from his years with DuPont Flooring Systems, and Friedman handles the financial end of the operation. The company is now exclusively commercial and has six office/warehouse locations in southern California and one in Las Vegas.
Copyright 2013 Floor Focus